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NC5 Investigates: Stories of Abuse

Mayor Wants School Board to Reconsider Bus Aides

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Metro school officials just don't get it.

That's what parents of some of Metro's special-needs children say.

But now, at the urging of Nashville's mayor, the school board is taking yet another look at whether aides are needed on buses to protect students from sexual assault.

Our chief investigative reporter Phil Williams first exposed the problem, and he's still looking over school officials' shoulders.

"It's crucial that we get this right because, you know, kids' safety is the issue here," Mayor Karl Dean tells Phil Williams.

When Metro's 217 special-ed buses roll off the lots next school year, how many will have monitors -- or aides -- to help protect the children?

"I think the number is a lot larger than 40 -- I mean, a lot larger than 40," Dean insists.

Nashville's mayor recently sent school officials back to the drawing board -- and parents expressed frustration -- after getting word that the school system planned to have monitors on less than a fifth of those buses.

"A lack of leadership is one thing, but I don't get a sense that any of these board members are truly troubled by these allegations and by what has happened," says parent and activist Erin Richardson.

It follows a string of sexual assaults against special-needs children by other students. It's a problem which, lower-level school employees testified, there was an easy solution.

"Everybody agreed that we needed monitors, but nobody wanted to take the responsibility of hiring monitors," bus coordinator Sandra Burton told lawyers for two of the victims.

Dean says,"They are caught between a tight budget year where we are really fully funding education. They are spending a lot of money. I'm saying if you've got to do more, do more."

And this week, during budget hearings before the Metro Council, acting schools director Chris Hansen acknowledged that the city lags far behind other Tennessee school systems.

"Their intent is to have a special ed bus monitor on every single bus," Hansen noted.

"One to one?" asked Metro Council member Tim Garrett.

"One to one."

Garrett added, "Evidently, we are not behind. Evidently, we are way behind."

"We are," Hansen agreed.

"We've got to be creative," the mayor says, "And we've got to be looking at this for a short-term solution for the coming school year and then a long-term solution. I want to get this right."

Now, the school board's finance committee has agreed to discuss whether it can afford to place aides on every one of Metro's special-ed buses.

The cost could be about $5 million.

But parents say the city cannot afford to sidestep the issue any more.

The school board's budget and finance committee will take up the issue Friday at noon. You can attend. The meeting will be in the school board meeting room on Bransford Avenue.

Watch more videos and follow the stories at NC5 Investigates: Stories of Abuse


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